Meat & Livestock News

Innovative Sensor Technology Set to Revolutionise Cattle Nutrition in Australia

Cow Veterinary

Researchers at the University of Queensland are pioneering a breakthrough in beef cattle nutrition using simple on-animal sensors, a development that could significantly enhance the efficiency of cattle supplementation.

This innovative approach, led by Tamara Freitas-Kirk, a master’s student with the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, employs wireless technology and motion detection cameras to monitor individual food intake within a trial herd.

The current methods for estimating feed intake in cattle herds assume uniform consumption across all animals, a premise that often does not hold true in practice.

For instance, in a scenario where ten animals are provided with one kilogram of supplements, it’s possible that two animals might consume 500 grams each, leaving others with less or no supplements.

This uneven distribution not only affects the health and growth of the cattle but also leads to inefficiencies in resource use.

To address this challenge, Freitas-Kirk utilised biometric wireless ear tags and a camera to track the movements of 14 heifers in a 10-hectare paddock at the University of Queensland’s Gatton campus over a 12-week period.

Previous studies have indicated a correlation between the time spent at the feed trough and the actual feed intake. By tracking the animals and analysing the data, Freitas-Kirk developed an equation based on the duration each animal spent at the trough. The findings were promising, showing that over 70 per cent of the variation in individual intake could be explained using the ear tags and the derived equation.

This method, while not providing an exact measurement, offers a significantly more accurate estimate of individual feed intake compared to existing methods.

The implications for cattle producers are substantial, particularly in terms of supplement usage. By being able to more effectively administer supplements, producers can minimise costs over time, contributing to a more sustainable and resilient beef industry.

Furthermore, this technology has the potential to aid in one of the industry’s major challenges: reducing methane emissions. By ensuring each animal receives the correct amount of feed additives, it’s possible to more effectively manage methane production.

The next phase of this project involves further proof of concept trials, with the results set to be presented at industry conferences in conjunction with QAAFI’s Calf Alive project.

This innovative approach to cattle nutrition stands to bring significant advancements in the efficiency and sustainability of the beef industry in Australia.